Category Archives: Reviews and Commentary

A fictional organization: “Artists for Media Literacy”

For our Social Engineering class, we were asked to propose to work on behalf of a real cause or a fictional one. Using ISIS as an example, how could we use similar social engineering tactics to win converts over to our cause? I decided to create a fictional organization called “Artists for Media Literacy”.

Media literacy is something I was taught in both grade school and high school, although I didn’t know then what it was called. Ever since I’ve been old enough and aware enough to realize what it was, I’ve thought it had the potential to heal many of the ills of our culture if more people acquired the skills. I felt strongly enough about it in 1998 that my first solo art show included a group project in which I encouraged people to send me postcards in the mail based on the theme “Turn Off Your Television”. Here are photos showing this project on the wall at my show, and a graphic for a postcard I sent out to help promote it.

On the left is a view of the gallery showing the TV project on the wall, and on the right is a postcard I made to promote the project.

So this is where my inspiration comes from for “Artists for Media Literacy”. Artists are trained communicators and often have a lot to say about the media and consumerism.

What techniques successfully employed by ISIS would be suitable for our group?

Category: Intimidation

Isis intimidates opponents via well-produced videos, mass executions and hashtag hijacking.

“Artists for Media Literacy” is a philanthropic organization, so there will obviously be no violence or threat of violence. We have no ambition to intimidate anyone to force them to participate – we believe in individual rights and freedom and want people to voluntarily choose to adopt the media literacy techniques we propose. We do want to raise the alarm about propaganda and abusive media – so we will try to influence people to fear the consequences of not using media in a healthy way. We can use well crafted videos to promote the positive benefits of media literacy as well as the dangers of being uninformed.

Hashtag hijacking would lend itself extremely well to our cause because there are trending media-related topics going on all the time that we could hitch an awareness piece too. For example, I can check Twitter right now to see what topics are trending at this url – twitter.com/explore/tabs/trending. #Antifa and #RIP Twitter are trending right now. Those would both be great hashtags to hijack for a media literacy campaign.

Category: Reassurance

Documentaries: we would not have to coerce participation from hostages to produce documentaries touting the benefits of media literacy. The challenge would be making them engaging and accessible.

Press releases: our work would be of interest to many news outlets if we target the right ones.

Instagram: this is a social media platform particularly friendly to artists, so we’d benefit from heavy use. Here is the Instagram account for the Back To Our Roots Art Show last year promoted by Webster University students – www.instagram.com/back.to.our.roots.art/. As a participant in the show, I can vouch for it’s usefulness in helping me keep track of deadlines, inspiring my vision for the work I was producing, and helping me promote the show to my social networks via attractive, branded and shareable content.

Category: Coordination

Civic forum boards: unlike ISIS, our boards would not need to be encrypted necessarily, but they should be secure to protect us from hackers.

Secure messaging: normal consumer level communications platforms should be adequate.

Battlefield drones: We won’t have battlefields in the sense that ISIS would, but if we ever have any outdoor events we could use drones to get interesting footage for videos. I’ve seen drones used that way at historic preservation events to attract interest by showing how well attended the event was and the extent of support for our cause, preserving the Gasconade River Bridge in Hazelgreen, Missouri. The organizers have succeeded in attracting large crowds in multiple years, including international Route 66 fans.

Works Cited

P.W. Singer, and Emerson Brooking, “How ISIS Is Taking War to Social Media”, Popular Science Magazine, 2015. Accessed through course module, 16 April 2021.

Opinion: For those in favor of saving the Republic, here are some ideas

In my Social Engineering class we have been studying Russian and other foreign cyber attacks on the USA, Germany, France, Great Britain, Ukraine, and elsewhere. One of our recent assignments was to read the following reports:

The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018

The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media, with Additional Views

After reading these reports, we were to consider the tactics in “On War” by Carl von Clausewitz and then answer the following question:

“So, what should the United States do about it? Think about the political, economic, and military weapons of war (Clausewitz) and share your thoughts about how to combat the Russian SE attacks.”

“I considered Clausewitz’s lessons of war (summarized by Pietersen) to see how they could help me create a strategy that makes sense.

Just the first step, Identify, I see as a huge challenge. I’m under the impression that most people who are angry about attempted Russian interference in recent elections are angry because their preferred candidate didn’t win, not because our Constitution and the Republic are under attack and hanging by a thread. A lot of people accept the premise that unethical and illegal acts are permissible if it helps your side. They may not be informed about the seriousness of the threat, or are informed and are rooting for the Constitution and the Republic to fall. This would be a good way for intelligence to precede operations. Do enough people even want the Republic saved to make it worth the effort to fight for it? The goal will have to be changed if there aren’t enough people on board. I’m going to write the rest of this assuming that there is enough support.

The decisive point: “Save the Constitution” would be my mission statement, at least internally. I’m not sure how to frame the campaign to get the support of enough of the public for success. It used to be considered self-evident in our culture that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were good things, but there are a lot of people who have been conditioned and trained to deny those rights to others that they think are beneath them and sometimes even to themselves – they don’t think they deserve it.

Concentrate: This includes physical resources as well as hearts and minds. I understand that the reports we read were based on a subset of all the existing information. The tech companies didn’t give everything they had to the Senate, and we don’t know if the Senate gave all of what they had to the analysts who wrote the reports. Nevertheless, the reports do contain enough information to have some idea of what might help on the technology side.

I would like consumers to have more choices of viable communications platforms so that they freely choose the ones they feel protect their rights and reflect their values the best. That probably means breaking up monopolies and holding corporations accountable for tortious business practices or unfair competition practices such as collusion or violations of the immunity clause in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. As others have pointed out in our discussion, communications companies sometimes have an incentive to allow content that harms their users but helps them financially. They’d be able to get away with this less if there were more choices.

I advocate re-instating the media based consumer protections that have been removed from our body of law such as the Fairness Doctrine, the personal attack rule and the political editorial rule, and I’d like to see them extended to online publishing and social media companies as well as broadcast and print. As I’ve stated before, I think it’s a human rights abuse to restrict information from people in order to control them. Can a “Right to Information” be added to our Constitution? I don’t know but that’s how important I think it is.

I would like to see all media companies compelled to run media literacy education content as a consumer protection measure.

I advocate media literacy training as a vital life skill in all levels of education.

Devote as least as many resources to the promotion of the Constitution and Democratic self-rule as the enemies do to undermining it.

US Consumers should have the choice to purchase physical products, software, and have access to technology platforms that are manufactured in the US and accountable to US consumers.

Resources that are vital to the security of the United States, such as medical supplies and media companies, should not be owned or controlled by foreigners.

Hold all levels of government to high standards of transparency and accountability to their constituents.

Remove: I would not want to see a repeat of excesses from the past such as McCarthy-style witch hunts or loyalty tests. I believe the most rational ideas will prevail if people are allowed to hear them and exercise their constitutional rights to assembly, free speech, freedom of the press and others. I also think internment camps for re-education or any other purpose should be off the table.

Ignore: I believe it’s important not to over-react to all the distractions that will be tried.”

I don’t consider my above suggestions as complete or comprehensive, but I think they’d be a good start. I welcome comments on this blog, pro and con, I think this is a discussion we need to have, openly and rationally, because, after all, this is war.

Works Cited

DiResta, Renee, Kris Shaffer, Becky Ruppel, David Sullivan, Robert Matney, Ryan Fox, Jonathan Albright, Ben Johnson. “The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency”, New Knowledge, 2019, digitalcommons.unl.edu/senatedocs/2/. Accessed 11 April 2021.

Howard, Phillip N., Bharath Ganesh, Dimitria Liotsiou, John Kelly, Camille François. “The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018”, Computational Propaganda Research Project, University of Oxford, 2019, digitalcommons.unl.edu/senatedocs/1/. Accessed 11 April 2021.

Pietersen, Willie. “Von Clausewitz on War: Six Lessons for the Modern Strategist.” Columbia University, www8.gsb.columbia.edu/articles/ideas-work/von-clausewitz-war-six-lessons-modern-strategist. Accessed 12 April 2021.

Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate. “Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media, with Additional Views”, 2019, digitalcommons.unl.edu/senatedocs/4/. Accessed 11 April 2021.

Excerpts from a Beatles Fanzine

(There was some kind of web hosting problem and this post got erased the day after I posted it so I’m recreating it here. Lesson, which I have learned to heed from past experience – always write your article in a text file on a hard drive first so you can quickly re-create it!)

There is a possibility that during my current Social Engineering class I might want to cite in a paper or project some of the old content that I produced for a Beatles fanzine in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I was a member of the St. Louis Beatles Fan Club and we published a fanzine called “What Goes On”. I’ve been meaning for a long time to re-publish some of these old articles on my blog, but to make them fully indexable I would need to find a way to access some of the floppy and zip discs I have to get typed-out copies of these articles. For now it’s a lot quicker to scan the pages I might want to use and put them in a PDF file. In order for the PDF to be somewhat searchable, I’m leaving the introductory text and index as text and not rasterizing it. I will also include a list of keywords for each excerpt so that researchers online can at least get a hint of where to access some of this information if they want it for study. I’m going to reproduce the searchable text in the PDF in the remainder of this blog post also. Believe it or not, there is scholarly interest in not only the Beatles, but also Beatles fandom, fandom in general, and ‘zine culture.

I kind of made up my own format, very loosely based on MLA, so I don’t claim that this document adheres to a standard way of cataloging this type of material. I might revise the format later. Enjoy!

Excerpts from “What Goes On”: A Beatles Fanzine
Originally published by the St. Louis Beatles Fan Club, 1999-2003
Copyright 1999-2003 the original authors

Excerpts included:

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “‘Across the Internet’ #1”. What Goes On, Vol. VI, No 3, October 1999, pp. 11-13.
Keywords: fandom and VCRs, home video recordings, history of media formats, Across the Internet, internet use by fandom in 1999, early days of the World Wide Web.

— “Revolution #9: The Art of Play and the Joys of Noise.” What Goes On, vol. VII, no. 1, January 2000, pp. 6-9.
Keywords: sound collages, music concrete, experimental music, sound experiments, conceptual art, performance art, home taping, cassette tape culture, Beatles 1968 Christmas message, Beatles fandom in the 1980s, history of media formats, noise tapes, White Album, playing records backwards, backwards sound experiments, St. Louis Steamers, Checkerdome, Revolution 9, soundtrack for art gallery, low-fi sound experiments, homemade sound recordings, prank calls, Commodore 64 computer, found sounds.

— “Across the Internet” #2. What Goes On, vol. VII, no. 1, January 2000, pp. 12-13.
Keywords: history of media formats, Across the Internet, internet use by fandom in 2000, early days of the World Wide Web, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player.

— “Joe Davis Takes Us Back To ‘Meet The Beatles’.” What Goes On, vol. VII, no. 2, April 2000, pp. 1, 9. Aricle by Rich Reese, Carolyn’s contribution is the collages of Valentine cards on page 9.
Keywords: Joe Davis, listening party, “Meet the Beatles…Again!” radio show, 97.7 KSD FM, Nick Baycott, Les Aaron, Bears Who Care, St. Louis Veteran’s Hospital, Brentwood Community Center, “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” controversy, 101 the Fox, FM radio in St. Louis, Missouri.

— “Happiness is a Warm…Picnic.” What Goes On, vol. VII, no. 4, October 2000, pp. 4. Photos by Carolyn.
Keywords: PepperLand, Creve Couer Lake park, Beatle Bob, Rich Reese.

— “I Wanna Be Santa Claus.” What Goes On, vol. VII, no. 4, October 2000, pp. 5, 11.
Keywords: John Lennon tribute, Peace Tree, Christmas, Holiday party, Christmas ornaments, conceptual art, group art project, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Bagism, performance art, peace activism, peace movement.

— “Pop! Goes The Beatles: the beatles and pop art.” What Goes On, vol. IX, no. 3, September 2001, pp. 13.
Keywords: Pop Art, St. Louis Art Museum, Pop Impressions Europe, art show review, Richard Hamilton, mass media criticism, consumer culture criticism, printmaking, Peter Blake, swinging London, Eduardo Paolozzi, album cover design, Dieter Roth, illustration, fan art, interpretation of song lyrics.

— “‘Across The Internet’ #3” What Goes On, vol. IX, no. 3, September 2001, pp. 13.
Keywords: Liverpool Sound Collage, Peter Blake, history of media formats, Across the Internet, internet use by fandom in 2001, early days of the World Wide Web.

Here are the Beatles Pop Art ornaments I made for a 9/11 benefit recovery raffle. I actually won back the Paul ornament and I still have it. Later I used the templates and prototypes to make a rubber stamping project that was published in RubberStampMadness magazine. Here is a link to an ornament that is similar to the ones in the article: Surreal Mixed Media Shadow Box Ornament

— “Fans and Friends Remember George.” What Goes On, Special Commemorative George Harrison Issue, February 2002, pp. 5. Carolyn’s contribution is the George Harrison themed Pop Art ornament.
Keywords: Pop Art, handmade ornament, Christmas ornament, fan tributes to George Harrison, Dave Grohl, Louise Harrison, Jools Holland, Eric Idle, Anthony Kiedis, Mark Klose, Jeff Lynne, Gerry Marsden, George Martin, fan art, celebrity tributes to George Harrison, Louise Harrison Caldwell.

— “McCartney Drives Into Chicago With Full Tank: The Sights.” What Goes On, vol. IX, no. 1, June 2002, pp. 1, 6.
Keywords: Paul McCartney concert review, Chicago, United Center, Driving USA Tour, concert lighting, concert video screens, special effects, performance art, live actors, Surrealist performance, Dadaist performance, rock concert production, arena rock, mulimedia, conceptual art, Pop art, Psychedelic art, art history.

— “‘Across The Internet’ #4.” What Goes On, vol. IX, no. 2, October 2002, pp. 5.
Keywords: history of media formats, Across the Internet, internet use by fandom in 2002, early days of the World Wide Web, Linda McCartney photography exhibit, Sheldon Art Galleries, Nine/One One + One art show, Art St. Louis, 9/11 art show.

Note: For the 9/11 art show referenced just above, I made two collages to submit for judging. There are some differences between them that I deliberately put in to test a theory about which one had a chance of getting in the show and which did not. My prediction was accurate, and is interesting to think about in light of the social engineering I’m currently studying. Here are the links to the two collages, if you want to guess which one got in and what didn’t.

“State of the Union #1”

“State of the Union #2”

This is another 9/11 themed project I made, and artist book that was in a show that was not juried. I made this about a month after the event.

“Liberty – A Successful Experiment”

— “New Paul Live CD = Permanent Grin.” What Goes On, vol. IX, no. 3, 2003, pp. 4.
Keywords: CD review, record review, Paul McCartney Back in the U.S., concert recording, concert CD, live album, live CD, rock concert.

— “Scrapbook Scraps.” What Goes On, vol. IX, no. 3, 2003, pp. 13.
Keywords: scrapbooking, digital scrapbooking, Seattle, Seattle Kingdome, record breaking rock concernts, legendary concert venues, rock concert history, Hollywood, Capitol Records building, Hollywood and Vine, Yellow Submarine, John Lennon, Hollywood Walk of Fame, gold records, travel photos, Beatles impact on culture.

Download the PDF file here:

Excerpts from “What Goes On”: A Beatles Fanzine

Facebook Ads and the 2016 U.S. Election

I just turned this in as an assignment for my Social Engineering class. It has not been graded yet. Enjoy!

For the last several years, it has been alleged and believed by some that President Trump would not have been elected in 2016 if the Russians had not bought ads on Facebook on behalf of fake clients. Understandably these allegations caused a lot of Facebook users to reconsider whether or not they should continue to support Facebook. In order to safely use Facebook or any social media platform, it is important to develop skills to help determine the credibility and reputation of any individual or organization.

As a Facebook user of many years duration, to help me decide the truth of the 2016 election influence claims, I sought answers to the following questions.

Are there examples of who made the allegations?

Here are a couple. Donald Trump’s opponent Hilary Clinton, named Facebook as one of the causes of her loss and declared that CEO Mark Zuckerberg should “pay a price” (Cadwalladr). It’s interesting that Mark Elias, counsel for Hilary Clinton’s campaign, helped Facebook to avoid putting disclaimers on ads back in 2011 (O’Sullivan).

In October 2020, Senator Mark Warner (D., Va.) wrote to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, to urge Twitter to allow political ads after Twitter had banned them (Warner), even though in 2018 he had criticized Facebook for selling ads to what he identified only as “Russians” (Crookston). He also criticized YouTube for allowing radicalizing content by “Chinese, Iranian and others”. In Warner’s 2020 letter, he decries “Russians” use of ads even as he tries to persuade Twitter to accept ads. Referring to 2016, the 2020 letter states: “Russia took advantage of our openness and communications technologies, including exploiting American-bred social media platforms to spread disinformation, divide the public, and undermine our democracy.”

Has anyone attempted to refute the allegations against Facebook?

Here is the opinion of Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth. “So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected? I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks. He didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period.” (“Lord of the Rings…”). This opinion by Bosworth and subsequent opinions I attribute to him are taken from text purported to be from an internal memo that was published on the New York Times web site. I accessed what claims to be this memo on the web site TechyLawyer because the NYT article is behind a paywall and the Webster University online library doesn’t have the article. Since I’ve seen quotes from this memo on other web sites that match the TechyLawyer site, unless I come across information that the content been misrepresented, I’m accepting for now that this is what the memo actually did say.

It was reported by the Washington Free Beacon in the context of the 2018 midterm elections, that Senator Mark Warner was of the opinion that while Facebook is a concern, YouTube and Google hosted far more misinformation than Facebook and were less transparent and less cooperative than Facebook was in trying to fight the trend (Crookston). There was a video accompanying this article, formerly hosted by YouTube, which has since been taken down, I don’t know by whom. The senator’s remarks were quoted on many other web sites that I looked at so barring information to the contrary I find the reporting credible. 

Did Russians in fact buy ads?

Bosworth weighs in. “Russian Interference was real but it was mostly not done through advertising. Instead, the Russians worked to exploit existing divisions in the American public for example by hosting Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protest events in the same city on the same day” (“Lord of the Rings…”). 

What is meant by “Russians”? Do they mean the Russian government, Russian citizens, Russian-Americans, who exactly?

NPR reported that 3,000 Facebook ads were purchased on behalf of a Russian agency (Folkenflik). NPR did not say what kind of agency. An ad agency? A spy agency? That was not made clear. CNN referred to the ad buyers in question as a “Russian troll farm” (O’Sullivan). I kept clicking links to see what the actual identity of the “Russian troll farm”/”agency” is and ultimately came up against the New York Times paywall.

The Baltimore Sun alleges that the ads were placed by a Kremlin-influenced agency but the article includes no citation or source for Kremlin involvement (Fritze). The Politico article names the agency in question as “Internet Research Agency” and says it is Kremlin-linked but attributes no source for this information other than unnamed members of the House Intelligence Panel and provides no quotes or links to help verify (Politico Staff). The Washington Post refers to them as “Russian Operatives” without clarifying what that means (Keating, et al).

What are some examples of the fake Facebook clients?

According to NPR, the Russian ads were turned over to Congress by Facebook (Folkenflik). Names of the alleged fake organizations that I was able to find include “Black Matters”, “Native Americans United”, “LGBT United”, “Being Patriotic”, “Army of Jesus”, “United Muslims of America”, “Secured Borders”, “BM (does this stand for Black Matters, Bowel Movement, or something else?)”, “Born Liberal”, “_american.made”, “Heart of Texas” and “american.veterans”.

What was the content of the fake ads?

I think it’s interesting that Bosworth claimed in his memo that this Russian agency bought ads pitting Black Lives Matter against Blue Lives matter, but NPR reported that Russia was trying to inflame divisions between Muslims and Black Lives Matter (Folkenflik). Is it the position of NPR that Blue Lives Matter and Muslims are allies? That is unclear. It was also disclosed in the article that there is a financial relationship between NPR and Facebook. 

In order to see which candidate the ads seem to favor, and to see whether the Russians desired Blue Lives Matter vs Black Lives Matter, or Muslims vs Black Lives Matter, I tried to find out what the ad content was. Despite hearing about the Russians and their ads for years, I could not recall seeing any images of the alleged ads so I did an image search and found alleged samples published by The Baltimore Sun, Politico and the Washington Post.

Here is a survey of the messages in the ads I could find:
    Pro Black Lives Matter
    Pro Native American rights
    Pro Bernie Sanders
    Anti Hillary Clinton
    Anti Islamaphobia
    Pro secure borders
    Pro Blue Lives Matter
    Anti Black Lives Matter
    Anti Donald Trump
    Pro 2nd Amendment
    Pro Texas secession
    Pro military veterans

How much was spent on fake ads?

Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth stated that “$100,000 in ads on Facebook can be a powerful tool but it can’t buy you an American election, especially when the candidates themselves are putting up several orders of magnitude more money on the same platform (not to mention other platforms) (“Lord of the Rings…”). I’ve heard the $100,000 figure quoted on many other web sites so for now I find the amount credible.

How does the amount of money spent by the Russian fake clients compare to real clients?

As of December 31, 2016, Hilary Clinton had raised 1.4 Billion and spent 98% of it, and Donald Trump had raised 957.6 million and had spent 99% of it (“Election 2016…”).

With the above questions answered to the best of my ability, how credible do I find the claims that Russian ads by fake clients determined the results of the 2016 election?

I find myself agreeing with Bosworth that $100,000 isn’t going to buy an election when the opponent has spent nearly 1.4 billion. There would be no need to spend nearly 1.4 billion if that was the case, they would have just spent $100,000. That sounds like a better deal to me!

If you only have $100,000 to spend on ads to try to win the U.S. Presidency, I think it’s reasonable to assume your message has to be better targeted than these examples in order to be effective.

I do find accusations credible that an ad agency in Russia created fake organizations for the purpose of running fake ads to run marketing tests, and I agree that the ads are examples of trolling. Trolling has been used in ads and ad tests before. I’ve done it. I wrote about my experiment and the Elizabeth Warren campaign running such a test on Facebook in an assignment for Media and Culture class in 2019 (Winkelmann). 

The subject matter of the Russian ads is bizarre and inconsistent. Their overall effect seems more like it would be confusion rather than favoring any one party or issue. Actually, if I hadn’t researched these ads and just looked at them with no background, I would probably have assumed they were part of a Dadaist or Fluxus influenced performance art project. If these are indeed the same ads everyone has been talking about, I don’t think the controversy they generated is justified.


Works Cited

Cadwalladr, Carole. “Hillary Clinton: Zuckerberg should pay price for damage to democracy.”  Guardian News & Media Limited, 2019, www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/nov/04/hillary-clinton-mark-zuckerberg-pay-price-damage-democracy. Accessed 25 March 2021.

Crookston, Paul. “Warner Blasts Google for Allowing More Radicalization and Manipulation Than Facebook.” The Washington Free Beacon, 2018, freebeacon.com/politics/warner-blasts-google-for-allowing-more-radicalization-and-manipulation-than-facebook/. Accessed 25 March 2021.

“Election 2016: Money Raised as of Dec. 31.” The Washington Post, 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/campaign-finance/. Accessed 25 Month 2021.

Folkenflik, David. “Facebook Scrutinized Over Its Role In 2016’s Presidential Election.” npr, 2017, www.npr.org/2017/09/26/553661942/facebook-scrutinized-over-its-role-in-2016s-presidential-election. Accessed 25 March 2021.

Fritze, John. “Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign.” Baltimore Sun, 2017, www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-russian-facebok-ad-20171101-story.html#nt=standard-embed. Accessed 25 March 2021.

Keating, Dan, Kevin Schaul and Leslie Shapiro. “The Facebook ads Russians targeted at different groups.” The Washington Post, 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/business/russian-ads-facebook-targeting/. Accessed 25 March 2021.

“Lord of the Rings, 2020 and Stuffed Oreos: Read the Andrew Bosworth Memo.” TechyLawyer, 2020, techylawyer.com/blog/lord-of-the-rings-2020-and-stuffed-oreos-read-the-andrew-bosworth-memo/. Accessed 25 March 2021.

O’Sullivan, Donie. “Facebook sought exception from political ad disclaimer rules in 2011.”  Cable News Network, 2017, money.cnn.com/2017/09/27/technology/business/facebook-political-ad-rules/index.html. Accessed 25 March 2021.

Politico Staff. “The social media ads Russia wanted Americans to see.” Politico, LLC, 2017, www.politico.com/story/2017/11/01/social-media-ads-russia-wanted-americans-to-see-244423. Accessed 25 March 2021.

Warner, Mark R. Letter to Jack Dorsey. United States Senate, 2020, www.warner.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/3/a/3afc73bd-d03f-43be-801d-85417c6c55e6/0589911AC5097909F38E0FA5B772FEB2.10.6.20-twitter-honest-ads-act-letter.docx.pdf. Accessed 25 March 2021.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design. 2019. www.chasenfratz.com/wp/political-ads-about-political-ads-and-trolling/. Accessed 25 March 2021.

Added 03/26/21:

Here is a link to my Pinterest Board Media Analysis:

https://www.pinterest.com/chasenfratz/media-analysis/

I have this Pinterest board to help me keep track of sources. I started it when I started this degree. I’m in favor of transparency so I want people who read my articles and papers to see what sources I collected, and what I used and didn’t use. That tells you something about a piece, what was selected for use out of what was available. And if you are interested I hope you read the sources too!

Update 04/08/21:

In my social engineering class, I’m studying Russian social media advertising more and might write about the topic more on this blog. This week we have been assigned to read these three papers among other material:

The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018

The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence United States Senate on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election: Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media, with Additional Views

As I read and work on my assignments, I may or may not find that some of what I wrote above is incomplete. This is a complex topic and if I run across anything I think I need to add or change, I’ll do that and make a note of it. In the meantime, I recommend that everyone read the same three papers I’m reading so you have more background on the issues. Media reporting on this topic is very poor and very confusing and seems mostly designed to obfuscate what happened instead of attempting to help people understand. Your understanding is likely to improve after reading and like me you might have a lot more questions as well. Enjoy!

Romance Scams

Here is a version of an assignment I did for my Social Engineering class at Webster University, CSSS 5280 that I modified for the blog. The version I submitted has not been graded yet.

A couple of years ago a co-worker excitedly told me about an interesting man she met on Facebook. As she continued to add details to her story, I recognized what she was dealing with – a common romance scam that I’ve seen many times. I felt sad having to explain to her that she was being groomed for some kind of exploitation, because she seemed so excited.

I’ve been a Facebook user for a long time, since 2008. I use my personal Facebook page for marketing as well as networking. It’s the nature of a lot of work that I do that it has been useful to allow people get to know aspects of the public-facing me – I’m not the most skilled at networking in person. I have most content on my Facebook account set to the security setting “Public” and I sometimes accept friend requests from people I don’t know unless they seem threatening. 

I don’t remember exactly when I started noticing this, but every once in awhile I’d get a Facebook friend request from a man who claimed to be either in the military or working overseas in a civilian field like engineering, or the oil industry, or something like that. The first few times I went ahead and accepted these types of friend requests, because I’m generally disposed to be friendly and supportive to people unless I have reason not to be. I soon started noticing some patterns. The men in the profiles were generally above average in attractiveness, but looked like real people, not models. They were often photographed in an “action” pose or setting. Often their first and last names were two of what we would usually consider first names, put together. They sounded like what a foreigner’s idea of a generic American name would sound like rather than genuine selection of random American names. They usually claimed to be originally from the US or Europe but currently doing some kind of work in the Middle East. Their Facebook profiles were generally not very well populated with friends or content, so seemed like they had a short-lived social media presence. I could tell they hadn’t looked at my profile to learn basic facts about me, but claimed to have a burning desire to be my “boyfriend”. At first I gently turned away “romantic” conversation by saying I don’t do long distance relationships and I don’t “sext”. True statements, but irrelevant when I noticed the patterns of personal disinterest in me and constant boundary pushing. I decided they were all scammers seeking money, passwords, green cards, nude photos or all of the above and stopped accepting those requests. You would think that the word would get out about these scams enough for people to avoid them but from 2015 to 2019 the amount of money lost in online romance scams rose six times, from $33 million to $201 million (“What You Need…”).

I was able to recognize that type of scam earlier than some unfortunate other victims, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never been played. I’ve known for decades to avoid online dating and long-distance “relationships”. Before I was married I only dated men that I met in real-life situations. I was looking for suitors to court me for marriage, not hookups. I knew I would need to meet their friends, family and work colleagues and observe how they dealt with a variety of life situations over a period of time to learn their character and intentions. As a result, I was not in much demand for dates and for my age I was not very experienced. Men mostly preferred easier targets. What I didn’t realize until I experienced it is that there are people who have trained themselves to groom people like me for the purpose of perpetrating a long con. I believe I was being set up by a former “boyfriend” to be financially exploited, but was able to get out before I actually handed over any money. I had some medical bills to pay from therapy that I needed to be functional again after the emotional abuse that was gradually applied to me without me noticing for awhile, and that was pretty humiliating.

Pick Up Artists, or PUAs, are people who feign romantic interest in order to get a quick sexual conquest (Kale). Pick Up Artist techniques have been around a long time, but the Internet and the popularity of books on the topic changed the culture of dating a lot, so that by the end of the first decade of the 2000s, there was a noticeable difference in dating culture (Kale). PUA techniques are emotionally abusive and are designed to break down the resistance and push the boundaries of the target for the gratification of the abuser (Kale).

Right after reading what our first assignment for this class was, I got a typical romance scam Facebook request so I accepted it for the purpose of getting a few screen shots to show an example in action.

An example of trolling on Facebook to instigate a Romance Scam.
An example of trolling on Facebook to try to instigate a Romance Scam.

This example is a little unusual because this scammer is not claiming to have an “American” sounding name, but otherwise it’s pretty representative. I kept the initial conversation going for a few minutes with some generic responses on my part so I could get screen shots to show how these grooming sessions usually start. If it seems predictable like it’s a formula, that’s because it is! Romance scammers and PUAs use actual playbooks and rehearse lines in increase their proficiency (Panikian). Some even pay money to attend classes and workshops (Panikian, Dixon).

Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence are time-tested manipulation techniques (Changingminds.org) that we are studying in Social Engineering class. I’m going to compare Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence with some Pick Up Artist tactics to find out how and why some of the PUA techniques work.

“Reciprocity: Obligation to repay.” Giving you a lot of compliments in the beginning is called “love bombing”. They can be generous in the beginning but stingy later (Bancroft 68).

“Consistency and Commitment: Need for personal alignment.” Victimizers use your integrity and need to make your actions match your beliefs as a weapon against you. PUAs take advantage of the tendency of women to have been socialized to be polite to men (Kale).

“Social Proof: The power of what others do.” PUAs play up their attractiveness to others by talking about exes, flirting with other people in front of you, etc. to make themselves seem in demand (Dixon).

“Liking: The obligations of friendship.” People are flattered when a very attractive person, who could be a fake persona, seems to like them (Paul). PUAs like to make you feel special by paying a lot of attention to you, but it could be love-bombing or distracting you from noticing what they are really like (Dixon).

“Authority: We obey those in charge.”
PUAs are instructed to exude a lot of confidence (Panikian, Dixon) and think and act as if they are the actual prize (Kale).

“Scarcity: We want what may not be available.”
One PUA technique is to pretend that they are getting ready to leave a social situation so you feel pressured to talk to them because they might be gone soon. Also to give you the impression that the PUA is leaving soon and you don’t think you’ll be stuck with them long so there isn’t much downside to allowing a little conversation (Dixon).

Please protect yourself out there, on or offline!

Works Cited

AlphaWolf & Co. “Pick Up Artist (PUA).” PUA Lingo, 2008-2021, www.pualingo.com/. Accessed 25 February 2021.
— “Neg Hit/Negging (Negs).” PUA Lingo, 2008-2021, www.pualingo.com/. Accessed 25 February 2021.

Bancroft, Lundy. Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Berkeley Books. 2002.

ChangingMinds.org. “Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence”. Changing Works, 2002-2021, changingminds.org/. Accessed 16 March 2021.

Fellizar, Kristine. “7 Pickup Artist Techniques To Look Out For.” Bustle, 2019, https://www.bustle.com/p/7-pickup-artist-techniques-to-look-out-for-15897579. Accessed 18 March 2021.

Hadnagy, Christopher. Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2018.

Kale, Sirin. “50 years of pickup artists: why is the toxic skill still so in demand?” Guardian News & Media Limited, 2019, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/nov/05/pickup-artists-teaching-men-approach-women-industry-street-harassment. Accessed 18 March 2021.

Dixon, Christine-Marie Liwag. “How To Tell If You’re Being Hit On By A Pickup Artist” The List, 2020, www.thelist.com/183636/how-to-tell-if-youre-being-hit-on-by-a-pickup-artist/. Accessed 16 March 2021.

Panikian, Alice. “Stay Away From Becoming His Prey: 10 Signs You’re A Pick-Up Artist’s Prey.” elite daily, 2014, www.elitedaily.com/women/signs-youre-talking-to-pick-artist/854610. Accessed 16 March 2021.

Paul, Kari. “‘I was humiliated’ — online dating scammers hold nude photos for ransom in ‘sextortion’.” MarketWatch, Inc, 2019, www.marketwatch.com/story/i-was-humiliated-online-dating-scammers-hold-nude-photos-for-ransom-in-sextortion-attacks-2019-03-06. Accessed 16 March 2021.

“What You Need to Know About Romance Scams.” Federal Trade Commission, 2021, www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/what-you-need-know-about-romance-scams. Accessed 16 March 2021.

Pulling Your Own Strings

Pulling Your Own Strings is a book by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer that I’m re-reading right now for the umpteenth time. My copy is so battered the front cover is gone. I’m going to re-read a little each morning to help get the day started in a productive frame of mind. It’s been too long since I last picked this book up, so I’m going to remedy that by re-reading and quoting from it frequently. It would get tiresome to keep doing that on this blog, so after this post I think I’ll use my new MeWe account if I feel moved to quote and comment. I learn better when I analyze and write about what I read. Some things are hard enough to achieve in real life that I have to re-learn them many times over.

I read three of Dr. Dyer’s books in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I knew he had become somewhat of a TV personality after that but since I’m skeptical about what is on TV I stopped being interested in his work, so I can’t analyze what he did after the first three books I read. But one thing I do know – after re-reading parts of Pulling Your Own Strings while writing a recent research paper I realized whatever turn his career took after I read these books, I need more than ever to master this material. I have a lot of life experience since I first read this book, and have read many many many more books, including quite a few on the topics of mental health and psychology. In my opinion this book not only stands the test of time but is even more relevant now than when it was written – I think the obstacles against being a free-thinker have grown in the intervening years rather than lessened.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you get blowback as a result of asserting your rights in personal life, business life or public life. Abusers, mostly called victimizers in this book, will try to convince you that you are wrong for asserting your own agency. They want you to think it’s because they are more worthy than you, more moral or superior in some way and you are the one who is wrong. In many cases, the only thing you are doing “wrong” is being in the way of their agenda. You have the right to set your own agenda. You are not obligated to go along with someone else’s agenda unless you choose to freely. I admit to being afraid of the consequences sometimes. If you call someone’s bluff, they often will back down but sometimes they attack and do damage. But the price of not asserting your rights is also very high. To put things in perspective, when we got our stimulus checks last summer there was a lot of discussion about how to spend them and I was interested in asking what people did with them to get an idea about their priorities and values. A portion of mine went to help free a family from slavery in a brickyard in Pakistan. I got to see pictures of the family on their liberation day. When I think about it, it’s a reminder that although the cost of standing up for your rights may be very high, the cost of not doing so could be much higher.

Here is today’s quote, excerpts from page xiv:

“… I believe that you must often be assertive, even pugnacious, to avoid being victimized.

Yes I do think you must often be unreasonable, “insubordinate,” to people who would manipulate you. To be otherwise is to be victimized, and the world is full of people who would love you to behave in whatever ways are most convenient for them.

…individuals have the right to decide how they will live their lives, and that as long as their exercise of this right does not infringe on the equal rights of others, any person or institution that interferes ought to be viewed as a victimizer.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Many of the institutions I’m entangled with for marketing purposes have become blatant victimizers. Many of my business plans for this year are going to have to be changed and I will probably suffer some financially by getting off to a sluggish start as I focus on slowly disentangling myself. I was looking forward to starting off the year with some topics that were more fun than the classes I took last fall, but some of that time I have to devote to more pragmatic concerns – I’d much rather write about fun creative projects. I’m going to be spending some time working on breaking some of the chains I was manipulated into affixing to myself. I don’t know all the answers, especially since the situation is fluid and any internet-based tool at my disposal can be shut down at any time without warning and without recourse, but whatever I’m able to learn while doing so I’ll try to share with my readers. I’m over the halfway point of a Masters Degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications (excluding electives). The amount of knowledge I’ve taken in during that time I liken to seeing the world in black and white then having it switch to color. Imagine what is still coming! It’s as exciting as it is scary – some of it will be contrary to the agenda of very powerful corporations and government institutions, hidden or manifest, but of course not to the Constitution (as now written) or the rights of others. I’m not going to be manipulated into violating my ethics because my soul would be a loss to me greater than any other.

Dr. Dyer said on page xiv that Pulling Your Own Strings is written for people “who want their own freedom more desperately than anything else”. Unfortunately that’s how I was made and this time in history is going to be trying in ways I probably still don’t fully comprehend.  My husband is united with me in our philosophy about freedom and since he is the only human person I’m accountable to by way of sacred vows or oaths, we are ready!

Edit – read more about “deprogramming” I oppose in this article – Deprogramming . . . You!

Here is the infamous #ExposePBS video about the same topic – “PBS Principal Counsel Lays Out Violent Radical Agenda…”

Platform Independence and Diversity

I’ve always believed in platform diversity to avoid economic damage and economic coercion. Have I been as vigilant as I needed to be? Doesn’t look like it. Now the stakes seem a lot higher than that even! I’m signing up for the social media and other platforms people I know are recommending. I don’t know how many it will be and how many will be able to stay in operation and how many I will want to stay on. When the dust settles a little I will probably add some logos to my contact page that lead to different platforms and update my profiles. Right now my priority is to get accounts to see which ones stay usable.

It’s supposed to be illegal in the United States for businesses to punish you for doing business with competitors. So let’s test it, shall we?

I don’t have time to write a lot now, but a good starting point is here:

Disclaimer – I’m not an attorney. I took a class in Media Organization Regulations last fall. That is all I know so far.

This paper I wrote recently will help explain why I’m saying and writing this right now – http://www.chasenfratz.com/wp/4160-2/

Book Reviews

Through my Master Gardener work at Litzinger Road Ecology Center, a project of Missouri Botanical Garden, I’m a member of a book club for volunteers. Since we have not been doing volunteer work or educational enrichment in person lately, our book club helps to keep us in touch with each other through online meetings and keeps our minds expanding.

I haven’t had much time lately to read anything except textbooks and write anything except papers since I am in graduate school, though so far I’ve been able to fit in book club readings and discussions. For the next two and half months or so I’m going to be working on some independent study which should result in a little more time to read and write about more varied topics. One of my favorite things to write is book reviews! The first three books I’m going to review here are recent readings from our book club, and the last one is an old book that I read a long time ago and used for my most recent paper, resulting in a refreshed perspective on it and renewed appreciation.

Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn
Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn

“Never Home Alone” by Rob Dunn
There are many organisms that we live with but don’t think much about. In some cases, they are small to begin with, and are secretive or live in parts of our homes that we don’t regularly access. Others are too tiny to be seen without scientific equipment. The study of these types of organisms is a much younger field of science compared to that of the larger organisms that humans have been able to easily access for millenia. This book explains how human curiosity started to unlock some of this secret world that goes on around us, and even in and on us. You’ll also learn about exciting recent discoveries and areas that are unexplored and ripe for new studies. If you know someone who is interested in science this book might help turn them on to a field that is both relatively new and potentially very important to the human condition.

We live in a time when we are encouraged to have unwavering faith in a technocracy and questioning anything scientists or members of the technocracy say is treated by mainstream culture as heresy. In addition to being fascinating subject matter in it’s own right, this book is a good reminder to lay people such as myself that scientists are not superhuman, they don’t know everything and no one is above being questioned. Here is a quote I like from page 214: “Scientists aren’t supposed to discount hypotheses that they find boring and unfortunate, but they do…” I think we should all be cautious if someone tells us everything that can be known about something is already known. We can all think of many instances in history where that has been asserted, incorrectly. I believe curiosity should be encouraged whenever possible and this book certainly appeals to that part of human nature!

The Incredible Journey of Plants by Stefano Mancuso
The Incredible Journey of Plants by Stefano Mancuso

“The Incredible Journey of Plants”
by Stefano Mancuso
Similar to our first book club selection above, “The Incredible Journey of Plants” is a science book written so that a lay audience can access the information without having to read academic papers. It’s shorter in length than “Never Home Alone” and the watercolor illustrations are artistic and fanciful rather than strictly informational. Although the illustrations are lovely, in my opinion they would have benefitted from more variety in concepts since they are very prominent in the overall presentation.

If you enjoy plants, learning more about how amazing their survival, propagation and adaptation capabilities are from this book is likely to increase your fascination. The author provides some global perspective to the importance of plants to humans and the interplay between plants and world history. Although it contains scientific information, this is a book that you would probably use most often to access your capability for inspiration and wonder rather than as a horticultural reference book.

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
“Things in Jars” by Jess Kidd
“Things in Jars” is detective fiction that is set in the Victorian era. That might sound like a conventional premise, but this author adds in supernatural and fantasy elements with a poetic approach to the language creating results that are very bizarre, in a good way. This is not a “cozy” mystery with genteel characters and situations. There is considerable gore and dark abuse reflecting the hardships of the Victorian era that went along with the whimsy, mannered culture and scientific progress of the time that we often see portrayed in fiction. The “Things In Jars” of the title are sought after by scientists, collectors, curiosity exhibitors, mercenaries and detectives who all have conflicting purposes in mind for the specimens in question.

Although I have read a great deal of detective fiction, fantasy is not one of my favorite genres so at first I had a hard time getting interested in the story which has as characters ghosts and mythical creatures along with examples of Victorian era denizens that are more grounded in reality even if they are flamboyantly exaggerated. There are a lot of flashbacks and a lot of characters with similarities to each other, so I found the story to be occasionally confusing. I can think of two or three categories of players that could have been streamlined to make the story easier to follow. Despite that, if this author wanted to use the lead characters and situations to make a detective series out of this novel, I would be interested in reading more. It took considerable mental effort on my part to get into this world, but once there I was in no hurry to get back out. For example I could spend a lot more time with an eccentric scientist in a laboratory at the top of a converted windmill with a pet raven – lets go back there please! That’s one of my favorite aspects of a detective series, you don’t have to get used to a whole new world each time you read an installment.

Pulling Your Own Strings by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Pulling Your Own Strings by Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Pulling Your Own Strings” by Dr. Wayne Dyer
This book was first published in 1978. I first read this book in the late 1980s, when I was in college (the first time). It turned out to be one of the most influential books I have ever read. At many points in all of our lives, individuals and institutions are going to try to get you to disregard your own inclinations in behavior and thought so that your actions will benefit them, rather than yourself.

In my most recent research paper for the class Media Organization Regulations, I explained some of the sources of my theory that abuse is so mainstream in our society that we often don’t recognize when it’s happening. I got out my old copy of “Pulling Your Own Strings” to use in the paper because I remembered there were examples of the kinds of tactics I wanted to write about in the book, both personal and societal, and I wanted to make the patterns easy to recognize and understand. My jaw actually fell open re-reading parts of this book because the ideas contained within it are just as important now as in the 1970s, if not even more so. It seems from my point of view that individualism and thinking for oneself are less popular in our culture than they have ever been and we are shamed if we claim our right to question what we are told and why. This book reminds me that when people, institutions and society treat you that way it’s because they want something from you and it’s not likely to be what is in your best interests. I have read this book so many times the cover fell off some time ago, but it’s been a long while since the last reading – way too long. It’s going to go back to a spot where I can refer to it frequently. The dominant culture is working hard to separate all of us from our sources of strength to conform to their vision of how we should live – this book affirms the rights of all human beings to mentally reclaim our own agency and helps us practice building the courage we’ll need to do it.

Can Laws Protect The Public From The Media?

Here are some of the sources I collected for this paper - didn't end up using them all but could have if I kept going!
Here are some of the sources I collected for this paper – didn’t end up using them all but could have if I kept going!

I turned in my final paper for Media Organization Regulations last night. It was already a lot longer than it needed to be for the assignment, but I would have kept writing more if I had more time, right or wrong!

 I am not an attorney or law student. Edit 12-22-20 – I found and fixed a couple of typo-type errors in the Works Cited section.

After seeing my grade, I did ok on this paper but I didn’t do great. I want it to be great. My professor left me some comments about things she thinks I should have included. It is possible that I will publish a revised version of this paper incorporating the professor’s suggestions. When/if I do that I will have to double-check how to give proper credit for that sort of thing in an academic paper in the MLA format because I’m being trained in academic writing and academic integrity as I go as well as in course material. Before starting this degree in 2019 I hadn’t written an academic paper since 1993. What you will read below is unedited from when I submitted it except for two typos in the credits section. When/if I revise it further I’ll make that clear in the proper format.

At the end I have links to sources, and after that links to other posts on this blog that are on related topics in case you think the subject is interesting and want to read more. I’ll also link to the Pinterest board I use to help collect and organize sources I might use. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
20 December 2020

Can Laws Protect The Public From The Media?

Physical abuse of women in history has been mostly allowed to go on without consistent punishment until the 1990s.  Hundreds of years of beliefs that abuse victims deserve it, that the perpetrators who are punished are the real victims, or that abuse victims must be lying will likely take generations to diffuse because they were validated by hundreds of years of attitudes as well as the lack of prohibitive laws.  Another obstacle abuse victims have to face is a lack of enforcement even when there were applicable laws on the books (Bancroft 321).

In our culture, physical violence against domestic partners is slowly becoming less acceptable.  It is not as common as it used to be for family members, neighbors, or bystanders to look the other way when they witness abuse.  Some schools even teach children that they are entitled to safety from family members in their home instead of only strangers outside of it when they are teaching them how to call 911 for help (Bancroft 293).

Even though emotional and economic abuse can inflict severe harm, there are not as many legal preventive measures or remedies available for mental abuse as there are for physical violence (Bancroft 293).  It is difficult to promote awareness of the seriousness of emotional abuse when physical abuse has only been taken seriously in very recent history (Bancroft 321).

Negligent infliction of emotional distress, or NIED, is a tort that can be used in a suit against someone who carelessly caused emotional harm to another person (Trager et al 184).  A plaintiff hoping to win such a suit must be able to prove the following facts (Trager et al 184):

  • The defendant had a duty to use due care in interactions with the plaintiff.
  • The defendant acted negligently while failing to use due care.
  • The plaintiff has suffered injury.
  • The injury can be proven to be caused by the plaintiff’s negligent actions.

Attempts have been made to bring NIED lawsuits against the media as well as individual abusers, but they usually are not successful (Trager et al 185).  It is difficult for the plaintiff to prove proximate cause, that is, a reasonable finding that the defendant’s actions were directly to blame for the plaintiff’s injury (Trager et al 184).  It is theoretically much easier to prove that a media plaintiff was negligent because there are ample studies showing how media members should behave if they care about the public’s well-being, but negligence alone is not enough to win a suit (Trager et al 184-185).

If the behavior of the media defendant is so outrageous that “a civilized society” would consider it “intolerable and beyond all bounds of decency” then the potential tort might rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress, or IIED (Trager et al 179).  The plaintiff must still prove direct causation (Trager et al 179).  In addition, if the plaintiff is a public figure, the defendant must be proven to have acted with actual malice, that is “publishing with knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth” (Trager et al 181).  Even actual malice is sometimes not actionable if the courts interpret the defendant’s actions as satire or parody, or if the subject of the offending speech is about a matter of “public concern” (Trager et al 184).

One reason the media has so much latitude is because the founders of our country considered a free press and freedom of speech to be so important that they specified those rights in the First Amendment (Baran and Davis 30).  When members of the media are criticized for having harmful effects on our culture, they argue that they are not that influential, that they reflect society but don’t have the power to shape it.  At the same time, the media tells advertisers they can give them a good return on their investment and if an organization is of any significant size, be it government, nonprofit, or business, they spend money and resources on maintaining a public relations department (Baran and Davis 30).  A belief that media IS very influential is apparently coming from somewhere.

There has been disagreement among theorists, academics, government officials, media companies and the public about how legally free from restraint the media should be ever since there was such a thing as media (Baran and Davis 62-63).  The idea of technocratic control was considered and debated in the United States but ultimately rejected, at least if it was framed as control by the government.  Technocratic control is “direct regulation of the media” by technocrats, people considered to possess the correct values and skills to regulate media for the welfare of the public (Baran and Davis 62).  One of the reasons government technocratic control was rejected in the United States in the 20th century was because there was no consensus on who was qualified to have that power (Baran and Davis 62-63).  Regulations that applied in certain situations that passed First Amendment tests have been enacted over the years and are sometimes thrown out by the courts when re-tested.  The limits are renegotiated constantly from both the direction of greater freedom and the direction of more control (Baran and Davis 63).

Part of my incentive in choosing in this paper to examine parallels between domestic abusers and media abusers is the observation that both groups have the characteristic of constantly testing limits, like predators looking for weaknesses and loopholes to see what their targets and society will let them get away with.  Awareness and legislation often lag behind the latest technological developments and technocracy strategies.  Another reason is that abusers and media utilize many of the same manipulative techniques.  Does the media share some of the same motivations as domestic abusers?  Neither group can be trusted to be forthcoming about their intentions because of course they are more effective when their tactics are opaque – one can only judge by observing patterns of behavior.

There is another parallel between domestic abuse and media behavior that could be examined from a regulatory perspective.  In considering the pattern of legal intervention in abuse, physical harm was an obvious effect of abuse to be considered worthy of attention by the law.  When consumer products began to be subject to regulation in the United States, the danger of physical harm to the public was also an issue addressed early on.

Consumer protection laws began to be enacted in some US states as early as the mid-1800s to protect the public from adulterated food and drugs (Pride and Ferrell 78).  The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created to assume responsibility, formerly handled by the Department of Agriculture, for testing agricultural products (“The History of FDA’s…”).  The 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act was a continuation this public safety work as the regulatory body evolved into what we know as the FDA by the 1930s (“The History of FDA’s…”).  There was a further push for increased legislation designed to reduce physical harm from products, their advertising, and labeling in the 1960s and 1970s (Pride and Ferrell 78).  Today there are several additional federal agencies created to help protect consumers.  Some of the major ones are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Pride and Ferrell 80).

Ideas are also products – they can be sold using a lot of the same strategies as tangible goods.  By the 1930s, the notion of regulating harmful ideas was part of the discussion and remains so to the present day (Baran and Davis 68).  An influential compendium of the state of scholarship on media effects, The Effects of Mass Communications, was published by Joseph Klapper in 1960.  Klapper’s opinion was that media was more of a reinforcer than a dictator of current culture because there were mitigating social institutions in peoples’ lives such as churches, families and schools (Baran and Davis 114).  If media actors with self-serving and destructive intentions wanted a strategy for how to break down society to bend more people to their will, it was made readily available to them, however unintentionally, by Klapper and other theorists.

Consumer protection laws of a sort directed at media and advertising do currently exist under the auspices of agencies like the FTC and the FCC.  Normally these laws don’t deal much with physical harm unless the issues are safety related.  Physical injury is however sometimes considered as part of the negligent infliction of emotional distress tort in some states.  It is acknowledged in some jurisdictions that physical assault can cause emotional distress, and severe emotional distress can cause harmful physical symptoms and disease (Trager et al 185).  If the link between the media and emotional abuse is better studied and acknowledged, and the link between emotional distress and physical disease is likewise given due consideration, a pathway to further regulation of media to protect consumers might be blazed through studies of the physical sufferings of those harmed when media abuse goes too far.

The FCC is permitted to regulate broadcast media to an extent because the airwaves are considered the property of the people.  Broadcast stations are thought to have a responsibility to the public due to the people’s ownership of the airwaves (Trager et al 402-403).  It is less clear who, if anyone, “owns” the internet, but it was originally partially developed by US taxpayer-supported institutions (Press).  As of 2015 the amount of foreign ownership of US communications companies was capped at 25% with the then-current FCC commissioner proposing to raise the cap on foreign investment or eliminating it entirely (Traeger et al 404).  The policy that foreign companies would be allowed to own anything that US citizens own or paid to develop is something the FCC could reconsider by following their normal procedures for a change of policy (Traeger et al 401).  Any corporation, association or individual affected by FCC regulations has the legal right to a challenge in Federal appellate court (Traeger et al 402).  Foreign exploitation via international internet scams is rampant all over the world but we still allow access to our citizens by criminals from foreign countries who don’t participate in international anti-fraud measures (“Report international scams…”).  Economic exploitation tips the power balance in the abuser’s favor (Bancroft 156).

Tactics Employed by Domestic Abusers

Here are some of the techniques that abusers use to gain control over their victims (Bancroft 74, 145-146, 213-214, Dwyer 55-56).

  • Ridicule, name calling, insults, put-downs, and sarcasm
  • Distorting what was said
  • Accusing you of doing what they do, or thinking the way they think (projection)
  • Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority – “defining reality”
  • Turning your grievances around to use against you
  • Criticism that is harsh, undeserved, or frequent
  • Provoking inappropriate guilt
  • Playing the victim
  • Swearing
  • Threatening to harm you
  • Discrediting, spreading rumors
  • Silencing
  • Getting other people to put pressure on you
  • Spreading confidential information (doxxing)
  • Presenting one face in public and another in private to gain credibility and trust
  • Using events from the past or situations that can’t be changed as a reason a person should accept poor treatment
  • Collective punishment
  • Separating the target from sources of support

It is not easy sometimes for us to imagine that our entertainment providers would knowingly set out to abuse us, the consumers.  People often feel warm emotions toward celebrities and providers of entertainment.  A paper by Eduard Sioe-Hao Tan suggests why that might be the case (Tan 45).  “A lay person’s understanding of what it means to entertain somebody involves being amusing or giving pleasure, activities associated with being a good host to a guest.”  The entertainer may be considered responsible for voluntarily rendering a personal service to the viewer (Tan 45).

One trap that is easy for consumers to fall into is to forget that we are not really the ultimate customers for most entertainment products – the advertisers and sponsors are.  We may be the audience, but we are not the customer.  When considered in that light, it is a little more understandable why entertainment and media companies would be willing to actively abuse us, or at least not care if we become collateral damage.

In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Jim Taylor proposed that what we now call “popular culture” is no longer a reflection of the genuine culture of the people, but an artificial, media-cultivated corporate culture that he names “synth culture” (Taylor “Popular Culture…”).  Cultivation Analysis is the theory that the media present a view that does not necessarily reflect reality, but because people believe it does, reality changes to conform to the media (Baran and Davis 287).  As early as the 1950’s, architects were creating buildings and landscapes to conform to movie and television versions of reality.  The cultural landscape known as Disneyland, for example, was the product of a media corporation and was not merely appealing to existing media-cultivated tastes but actively implanting them (Hine 150-152).

If the culture we have is not based on the genuine culture of the people but is deliberately planted there by the media, I postulate that if we don’t already have it, we will end up with a government that is no longer “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but is of the self-appointed media technocracy whose primary interest is in exploiting us (Taylor “Popular Culture…”).  It’s obvious which political direction the technocracy wants us to go.  If we ask why, the large media corporations have the power to remove questions from public debate through moderating content and banning users with certain views even though they claim immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“Does Section 230’s…”).

The Rewards of Being Abusive

Above I have listed some of abuser’s techniques – now I’ll provide some of the possible incentives that motivate people to abuse other people.  Abusers enjoy the following advantages and privileges in life (Bancroft 43, 152, 153-158):

  • Abuse victims change their behavior and work to bolster the abuser’s self-esteem to win approval or tolerance.
  • Abusers gain the freedom to behave as they desire without restraint while getting lots of attention.
  • After being catered to, they get praise for being a great person and improve their public image when they act decent.
  • The comforts, privileges, and financial advantages of being catered to are too attractive to give up.
  • The thrill of having power is a seductive feeling.
  • The abuser can pick and choose low-stakes situations to act altruistic so that they can cultivate a positive image without making any actual sacrifices.
  • Abusing others can give the abuser temporary relief of frustration at life’s annoyances.
  • Others can be coerced into performing unwanted tasks or giving up resources, resulting in better quality of life or gratification for the abuser.
  • When people are deprived of financial resources or financial autonomy, they are much easier to control.
  • The abuser’s goals are prioritized while others are diminished. The abuser escapes consequences while others who would dare to engage in the same behavior are held accountable.
  • The abuser receives peer approval from the surrounding culture.
  • Disunity among a group gives the abuser more power by directing attention into fighting among themselves rather than holding the abuser accountable.

Abuse Examples and Comparisons

Here are a few examples of how members of the media have used abuse techniques to advance their agenda while disregarding the harm to individuals and society.

Abuse Example 1

Abuse benefits:  Abuse victims change their behavior and bolster the abuser’s self-esteem to win approval or tolerance.  Others can be coerced into performing unwanted tasks or giving up resources, resulting in better quality of life or gratification for the abuser.  Financial resources are often something abusers work on transferring from their targets to themselves (Bancroft 155-156).

Abuse tactic:  Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority – “defining reality”.

Media example:  The highest status people in our culture tend to be doctors, lawyers, professors, executives, politicians, sports figures and entertainers (Dwyer 19).  Some of these people are at least well-educated, but many have no more knowledge or ability about most issues than we do.  When people are catered to as though they are of a higher status than the common person, they often feel entitled to treat us as inferior and expect us to defer to their authority (Dwyer 19).

News content producers can be an example of media using their sense of entitlement and branding skills to claim authority they have not really earned.  Before the 1970s, news programs were offered as a public service and run at a loss to the station in exchange for the right to use bandwidth on the limited public airwaves.  Released from that obligation, many news programs still claim the image of public service while earning large profits by featuring “sensational, sentimental or dramatic” stories that will attract mass audiences for their advertisers (Silverblatt et al 119).  In return for their airwaves generating profits for media companies, the public gains at best only low-quality entertainment disguised as news, and possibly manipulation, abuse and ill health.

Some prominent social media companies have recently declared themselves to be authorities on objective truth, supposedly in the service of their users, who they see as not as qualified to judge as their own self-declared technocracy.  They employ “fact checkers” to distinguish between beneficial and harmful content.  A couple of the areas they recently claim special authority on are Constitutional law and medicine (Lucas, “Does Section 230’s…”).  When a technocracy was originally considered for the United States in the 20th century, sufficiently wise people, such as social scientists, religious leaders, the military, the police, Congress and the FTC were considered as members (Baran and Davis 62-63).  Investigative journalists have been trying to investigate today’s new technocracy.  In documenting the harsh working conditions of Facebook content moderators, journalist Casey Newton found that most of Facebook’s content moderators are employees of outside contractors.  At one facility in Phoenix, content moderators are paid $28,800 per year as compared to the average Facebook employee compensation of $240,000 (Newton).  Facebook periodically audits the contract workers for accuracy, with accuracy defined as what Facebook decides it is.  It is unclear what the educational qualifications are to be a contracted content moderator or a Facebook employed auditor (Newton).

Abuse Example 2:

Abuse benefit:  The abuser receives peer approval from the surrounding culture.

Abuse tactic:  Provoking inappropriate guilt.

Media example:  Netflix aired a documentary showing walruses falling to their deaths from a cliff, claiming the deaths were caused by climate change.  In actuality, the falling walruses were chased by polar bears, and possibly were even frightened by the film crew’s disturbing presence in the area and noisy equipment (Foster).  Netflix gained the benefit of appearing to be socially responsible while directing attention away from their own possible culpability.  As professor of space architecture and author Larry Bell commented in Forbes, phenomena that we used to be taught were natural, such as earthquakes, “hurricanes, droughts, floods, blizzard cold weather conditions and such” are now our fault and we are pressured to feel guilty (Bell).

Many celebrities have shared mis-identified fire photos on social media, claiming they are current and from the Amazon rain forest, when they were sometimes not current and taken somewhere else (Richardson).  Perhaps they feel less guilty about their lifestyles for spreading these often unverified messages, while at the same time enjoying social approval from their peers without having to actually sacrifice anything.  One of the privileges abusers regularly enjoy is to feel better while others around them feel worse (Bancroft 31).

What is the cost to mental health of this constant bombardment of what some affix the label “tragedy porn”?  Therapy for eco-anxiety is a prominent field of mental health with over 120 practitioners known as far back as 2008 (Bell).  Sufferers of eco-anxiety have reported shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, fatigue, overeating, bulimia, depression and alcoholism (Bell).  96% of respondents of one study on relatively affluent Americans claimed that eco-anxiety changed their ideas about having children, 6% even going so far as to regret the ones they already have (Carrington).  What is it like for a child to grow up as a regret?  In one case a seven-month old baby is going to have to find out what it’s like to live through a gunshot wound in the chest as the only survivor of an Argentinian family killed in a murder-suicide pact apparently precipitated by eco-anxiety (Sacks).

Children and adults alike have been taunted with threats that important cultural traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas will be ruined or cancelled because of climate change (Watts).  This could be interpreted as doubling down on the effort to induce poor mental health in viewers because religion is one of the well-known weapons against depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, suicidal behavior and poor physical health (Whitley).  Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, not a religious one, but gratitude is something both atheists and theists alike can embrace. However, too much gratitude is not good for the advertising business.  If people get too satisfied with what they already have, they won’t buy as many new things.  The idea that products should constantly be updated in appearance to make old versions obsolete or deliberately made not to last very long became mainstream by the middle of the 20th century in the United States (Hine 66).  The media likes to encourage us to buy unnecessary products  while at the same time promoting guilt in us because excess consumption is bad for the environment.  That behavior results in a triple win for the media/entertainment industry and their advertising clients – they sell more products, appear to be socially responsible for infiltrating our entertainment with guilt messages, and evade accountability for their own environmental misdeeds.

Abuse Example 3:

Abuse benefit:  The abuser’s goals are prioritized while others are diminished. The abuser escapes consequences while others who would dare to engage in the same behavior are held accountable.

Abuse tactics: Getting other people to pressure you, discrediting, spreading rumors, ridicule, name calling, insults, put-downs and sarcasm.

Media example:  Because they claim immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, social media corporations such as Facebook and Twitter maintain they are not liable for the actions of their users (“Does Section 230’s…”).  At the same time, they can allow content they approve of and ban content they don’t approve of, boost content they favor and restrict content they disfavor, and promote or suppress users in an equivalent manner.  In that way they can discredit, spread rumors, bully, harass or otherwise pressure whoever they choose by selectively enforcing speech, while avoiding proposed regulation of this privilege by manipulating public opinion to vote for whoever is unlikely to impose regulations that would reduce their technocratic control (“Does Section 230’s…”).

Sophisticated advertisers know what anxieties, fears and insecurities their target audiences are prone to, and they know how to trigger them at will and then offer products and ideas as solutions to the uncomfortable feelings that result (Silverblatt et al 291).  Facebook ran a test in 2012 to see if they could go beyond mere curation and actually prompt the type of content users post on their platform by manipulating people’s moods (Meyer).  They succeeded, and if there was ever any doubt, everyone now knows that they have the power to recruit their users into unconsciously propagating the media’s agendas and those of their advertisers.  Fear and anxiety have been known to be aids to selling products for a long time (Packard 48, 58-59, 221-223).  When Vance Packard published his book The Hidden Persuaders in 1957, the techniques advertisers studied to appeal to our fears and anxieties were still new to the public (Hine 28).  Even though the methods are no longer new, they still work as the Facebook experiment demonstrates (Meyer).  There are a number of possible health related side effects resulting from induced fear and anxiety, including fevers, vomiting, impotence, diarrhea, increased heart rate, fatigue, nausea, sleep problems, reduced ability to fight infections, heart disease, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, substance abuse, social dysfunction and suicidal thoughts (Dyer 33, 197-198, Leonard).

Even with the available legal remedies, there is a limited amount that can be done for a victim of physical or mental abuse unless they decide to stop accepting the abuse and take action to use what help is available to assist in freeing themselves.  Many of the harmful mental and physical effects of media can be overcome if individuals make the decision to reclaim their agency and follow up with suitable action.  Abused individuals and abused media viewers are groomed in a similar manner with deceptive seductive techniques that hide the true intent of the abuser.  Abuse and grooming gradually break down the resistance and health of the target to make the target less able to fight and break free from bondage.

Dangerous and addictive products that are regulated as “vice” products perhaps provide a precedent for the legal system and government agencies to regulate abusive media in a similar manner.  “Vice” products are related to activities that are not considered healthy or moral and whose use is controlled to some extent by age-related or other restrictions (Trager 547).  Categories of “vice” products currently include alcohol, tobacco, hookahs, e-cigarettes, drugs, gambling, sexually explicit material, firearms and marijuana (Trager 547, 550).  In the past some of the methods of combating the harm caused by the misuse of these products has taken the form of public service messages and warning labels.  The battle lines which government agencies and commercial interests navigate as they both attempt to advance their opposing goals is constantly in flux, with states and local jurisdictions having a lot of leeway to tighten or loosen regulations on vice products (Trager et al 542-555).  If the media is going to intentionally or negligently affect our health, I think a case can be made for providing media literacy information content on their channels in lieu of labeling on media products in exchange for the benefits their corporate owners enjoy at the public’s expense.

Some forms of media regulation have been allowed by Federal government agencies and the courts in the past to promote the ability of citizens to make informed choices about their health, welfare and the consumption of products and ideas.  Here are a few examples of past attempts by the FCC.

From 1949-1989 the Fairness Doctrine required broadcast stations to provide programming that presented diverse views on controversial topics of public importance (Trager et al 408).

The personal attack rule required broadcasters to provide a rebuttal forum for the subjects of an-air attacks on their “integrity, honesty, or character”.  Because the personal attack rule did not apply to public officials, it had limited power to limit one-sided attacks.  Even that protection for private individuals was eliminated in 2000 (Trager et al 409).

Under the political editorial rule, private broadcasters were required to allow legally qualified candidates for public office rebuttal time in response to editorials aired either against the candidate or in favor of a rival.  The political editorial rule also ended in 2000 (Trager et al 409).  Public broadcasters are not allowed to endorse a candidate but can editorialize on public issues (Trager et al 409), some of which could affect the livelihoods of those who work for public broadcasters and in that case could be one-sided and self-serving.  The taxpayers who fund a portion of public broadcasting involuntarily are afforded no opportunity to rebut (Trager et al 417).

Net neutrality was the requirement for internet service providers to treat all internet traffic equally and not set up paid priority service for preferred content (Traeger et al 423).  Net neutrality was repealed in 2018 (Morton). Some states have started to create their own net neutrality legislation since it no longer exists at the Federal level (Morton).

There was a time when the four above regulations were considered acceptable under the First Amendment.  The First Amendment has not yet changed – not the text of it anyway.  I suggest that as a country we consider bringing some regulations back, as they are possible hedges against the technocracy gaining further power over us and increasing their ability to abuse.

Works Cited

Bancroft, Lundy. Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Berkeley Books. 2002.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Bell, Larry. “Got Problems? Blame Global Warming.” Forbes, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2011/03/29/got-problems-blame-global-warming/?sh=55e40cca4e3e. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Carrington, Damian. “Climate ‘apocalypse’ fears stopping people having children – study.” Guardian News & Media Limited, 2020, www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/27/climate-apocalypse-fears-stopping-people-having-children-study. Accessed 17 December 2020.

“Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?”. U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, 2020, www.commerce.senate.gov/2020/10/does-section-230-s-sweeping-immunity-enable-big-tech-bad-behavior, Accessed 19 December 2020.

Dyer, Dr. Wayne W. Pulling Your Own Strings. Avon Books, 1978.

Foster, Ally. “Allegations Netflix film crew lied about what caused mass walrus deaths.” Nationwide News Pty Limited Copyright, 2019, www.news.com.au/technology/environment/natural-wonders/allegations-netflix-film-crew-lied-about-what-caused-mass-walrus-deaths/news-story/15b405e0e6f4f3558168d7713fd379f1. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Hine, Thomas. Populuxe: From Tailfins and TV Dinners To Barbie Dolls and Fallout Shelters. MJF Books, 1986 and 1999.

“Is Rape Culture Real? Let’s Take A Look At The Evidence.” Fight the New Drug, Inc., 2020, fightthenewdrug.org/is-rape-culture-real-lets-look-at-evidence/. Accessed 18 December 2020.

Leonard, Jayne. “What does anxiety feel like and how does it affect the body?” Healthline Media, 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322510. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Lucas, Fred. “6 Takeaways as Facebook, Twitter CEOs Testify at Senate Hearing.” The Heritage Foundation, 2020, www.dailysignal.com/2020/11/17/6-takeaways-as-facebook-twitter-ceos-testify-at-senate-hearing/. Accessed 19 December 2020.

Meyer, Robinson. “Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment.” The Atlantic, 2014, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/everything-we-know-about-facebooks-secret-mood-manipulation-experiment/373648/. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Morton, Heather. “Net Neutrality 2020 Legislation.” NCSL, 2020, www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/net-neutrality-2020-legislation.aspx. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Newton, Casey. “The Trauma Floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America.” Vox Media, 2019, www.theverge.com/2019/2/25/18229714/cognizant-facebook-content-moderator-interviews-trauma-working-conditions-arizona. Accessed 19 December 2020.

Packard, Vance. The Hidden Persuaders. Pocket Books, Inc., 1957.

Press, Gil. “A Very Short History Of The Internet And The Web.” Forbes, 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2015/01/02/a-very-short-history-of-the-internet-and-the-web-2/?sh=754f19137a4e. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.

“Report international scams online!” International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), 2020, econsumer.gov/#crnt. Accessed 20 December 2020.

Richardson, Valerie. “Celebrities get fact-checked after sharing fake photos of Amazon rainforest fire.” Washington Times, 2019, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/aug/26/macron-madonna-dicaprio-share-fake-photos-amazon-r/. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Sacks, Ethan. “Seven-month-old baby survives shot to chest in parents’ murder-suicide pact blamed on global warming.” New York Daily News, 2010, www.nydailynews.com/news/world/seven-month-old-baby-survives-shot-chest-parents-murder-suicide-pact-blamed-global-warming-article-1.176034. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Taylor, Dr. Jim. “Popular Culture: Too Much Time On Our Hands.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200909/popular-culture-too-much-time-our-hands. Accessed 15 December 2020.

—. “Popular Culture: We Are What We Consume.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200912/popular-culture-we-are-what-we-consume. Accessed 15 December 2020.

“The History of FDA’s Fight for Consumer Protection and Public Health.” Food and Drug Administration, 2018, www.fda.gov/about-fda/history-fdas-fight-consumer-protection-and-public-health. Accessed 19 December 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Watts, Anthony. “Future Holiday Hell – A Repeating Pattern of Climate Change Doomerism.” The Heartland Institute, 2020, climaterealism.com/2020/11/future-holiday-hell-a-repeating-pattern-of-climate-change-doomerism/. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Whitley, Dr. Rob, “Religion and Mental Health: What Is the Link?” Psychology Today, 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-men/201712/religion-and-mental-health-what-is-the-link. Accessed 18 December 2020.

Pinterest Board I Use To Collect Sources for Advertising and Marketing Degree Work

Media Analysis – lots and lots and lots and lots of sources on related topics. Some of which I have used, some of which I haven’t.

Blog Posts I Have Written On Related Topics

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Freedom of Expression in The Age Of Powerful Technology Corporations”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/4051-2/.

—. “The Snapchat Indecency Lawsuit”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/snapchat-indecency-lawsuit/.

—. “Attempting to Protect the Vulnerable from Violence”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/attempting-protect-vulnerable-violence/.

—. “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/3534-2/.

—. “Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/political-ads-about-political-ads-and-trolling/.

—. “Pride & Prejudice: Light Holiday Entertainment?”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/pride-prejudice-light-holiday-entertainment/.

—. “The Spiral of Silence Theory”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/the-spiral-of-silence-theory/.

—. “Self-help techniques for depression”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2018, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/2758-2/.

—. “A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2017, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/a-comparison-between-emotional-abuse-and-saul-alinskys-rules-for-radicals/.

—. “My New Planner Layout”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2017, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/my-new-planner-layout/.

—. “Book Review: “Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land) – Overcoming Betrayal and Dealing With Revenge” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/book-review-by-dr-laura-schlessinger/.

—. “Book Review: ‘Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men’”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/why-does-he-do-that-inside-the-minds-of-angry-and-controlling-men/.

—. “Creative Arts Fellowship at DaySpring School of the Arts”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/creative-arts-fellowship-at-dayspring-school-of-the-arts/.

—. “A plea for the humane treatment of Wiggles the pet starling”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2014, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/a-plea-for-the-humane-treatment-of-wiggles-the-pet-starling/.

Dealing with Deceptive and Unfair Messages

Here is another one of my homework assignments for Media Organization and Regulations class. Please read it if you are interested in preventing financial abuse to yourself or others. Some of this information you probably know but it never hurts to have a refresher on such a critical issue. This paper has been graded but I haven’t changed anything since turning it in yet. I’ll update these comments if I do so later.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
13 December 2020

Dealing with Deceptive and Unfair Messages

The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, has the authority based on Section 5(a) of the FTC Act to protect citizens from unfair or deceptive commercial messages.  A message is considered deceptive if it is likely to mislead a reasonable consumer (“A Brief Overview…”).  An unfair practice is one that causes or is likely to cause “substantial injury” which consumers cannot reasonably avoid and there are no “countervailing benefits” to justify it (“A Brief Overview…”).

The first line of defense for consumers is information.  The FTC provides a web page with information to help consumers recognize deceptive messages as well as tips on what actions to take if they receive such a message (“How to Recognize…”).  Blocking and reporting messages are recommended strategies.  The FTC recommends reporting SPAM messages to the app the consumer is using, as well as to the FTC.  The FTC investigates complaints and if unlawful activities are found, the FTC will take administrative or judicial action which may eventually result in civil penalties (“A Brief Overview…”).

An example of one case brought by the FTC to get justice and relief for victimized consumers is Federal Trade Commission vs. Ecommerce Merchants, LLC and Cresta Pillsbury, Jan-Paul Diaz, Joshua Brewer and Daniel Stanitski  (Federal Trade Commission… 1).  The FTC alleged that the defendants were guilty of sending 30 million unwanted SPAM messages that were not only unwanted but deceptive (Federal Trade Commission… 5-6).  Just receiving the unwanted messages was financially damaging to the consumers who according to their service contracts possibly had to pay or use credits to receive the messages (Federal Trade Commission… 7).  Monies that the deceptive messages generated for the defendants was deemed by the FTC to be unfair and the defendants likely to continue to offend (Federal Trade Commission… 9).

The FTC petitioned for the following actions (Federal Trade Commission… 9-10):

  1. That the activity cease while the case is pending, the assets preserved and accounting performed.
  2. The defendants be permanently banned from sending these messages.
  3. The injured consumers be released from contracts, be paid restitution and refunds, and fraudulently obtained monies be confiscated from the defendants.
  4. Repayment of court costs and other expenses deemed necessary by the court by the defendants to the plaintiff.

If implemented, it is my opinion that the above should adequately punish the offenders and repay the consumers if the victims are allowed to collect not only for the dollar value of what they lost but other expenses such as the time they spent dealing with and documenting the problem.  The consumers should also be made whole if they had to pay late fees, have their credit score damaged or other such losses that can occur when a financial problem starts snowballing.

A weakness in this kind of enforcement is apparent when consumers are victimized by international scams.  An organization called econsumer.gov, an initiative of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), attempts to unite consumer protection agencies from around the world to fight international scams.  With only 40 countries participating, obviously there are many countries that do not cooperate.  I think we should consider not allowing messages from countries that don’t participate in this or some similar international anti-fraud program to be sent to US-based text or email addresses.

 

Works Cited

“About Us.” International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), 2020, econsumer.gov/en/Home/About/3#crnt. Accessed 13 December 2020.

“A Brief Overview of the Federal Trade Commission’s Investigative, Law Enforcement, and Rulemaking Authority.” Federal Trade Commission, 2019, www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/what-we-do/enforcement-authority. Accessed 13 December 2020.

Federal Trade Commission vs. Ecommerce Merchants, LLC and Defendants. 1:13-cv-01534. 2013. www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cases/2013/03/130307superiorcmpt.pdf. Accessed 13 December 2020.

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